An Evaluation of the Haney, Banks and Zimbardo 1973 study

Essay by nikipHigh School, 11th grade March 2004

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Study: Haney, banks and Zimbardo (1973)

A study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison

Key issues/Theme : Ethics

Ecological validity


Issues/Theme 1: Ethics

The ethical objections to this study may be founded for the participants were subjected to excessive amounts of stress and anxiety. Which some of the subjects started to exhibit in the form of physiological complaints for example one participant got a rash due to the high levels of stress. Therefore it can be argued that the study has already started to breach some ethical boundaries when subjects start to become ill. Also some subjects became incredibly distressed during the study which may have meant that the conductor was not mindful of the potential permanent psychological damage. Even if the conductor was mindful of the potential permanent psychological damage, he did little to prevent it. By the point Zimbardo did stop the experiment some damage may have already been caused e.g.

a fear of authority.

Issues/Theme 2: Ecological Validity

This study was (on first inspection) high in ecological validity, for the prison itself was made to look as much like a real prison as possible. Also the way the prisoners were arrested, stripped and deloused and also made to wear uniforms and caps, helped the ecological validity of the study. For all this happened to real prisoners in a real prison. A couple of things hindered the ecological validity of the study for example the fact that the guards were given no formal training or strict guidelines (which is not the case in a real prison). But the factor that hindered the study most of all is the fact that the subjects (because of their knowledge of the experiment) produced over dramatic results. For example one of the guards termed John Wayne, admitted that...